GLOUCESTERSHIRE clubs are braced for another assault on the national stage as the 2019-20 Buildbase FA Vase tournament gets underway this Saturday (August 31), writes Simon Parkinson.
Our silverware chasers are among some 667 clubs countrywide which compete between steps 7 and 5 under the National League System umbrella vying for places at the second round qualifying point, which is scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 14.
As always club’s cash-mindful committees will be keeping a close eye on the action: the early prize pot offers £550 to those who come through this weekend’s ties unscathed and even the losers stand to pick up £175.
Last season Surrey-based Chertsey Town capped their Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division title and promotion success with a 3-1 extra-time Vase victory over Greenwich outfit Cray Valley Paper Mills at Wembley on May 19, underlining just how possible it is for our equivalent step 5 Toolstation Premier Division and Hellenic top-flight operations to reach for the stars as they start out on their journeys this weekend.
They do so knowing who they’ll face in the second round qualifiers too should they overcome their first hurdle challenges (see fixtures link below), all eager to emulate what Almondsbury Greenway so famously did in these parts in 1979 when they reached the final at the old Wembley Stadium before going down 4-1 to Billericay Town.
Forest Green Rovers did so too more successfully, in 1982, when they were also crowned Hellenic League champions, as they cruised past Nottinghamshire outfit Rainworth Miners Welfare 3-0 at the Twin Towers of the time.
Rovers have gone on to enjoy much bigger and better things, of course. But there will still be plenty of our Gloucestershire-based Hellenic clubs in Vase action this weekend striving for spots in the next round.
Fairford Town, frustrated to have lost their place in the FA Cup so early last weekend courtesy of a 3-2 home defeat by Hanwell Town, try again on Saturday 31 as they host an Abingdon Town team who have taken some seriously heavy defeats on the chin so far in lower level Hellenic Division One East activity.
Should Fairford come safely through they would find themselves intriguingly back on home soil facing local rivals and Hellenic compatriots in the shape of either Shortwood United or Tuffley Rovers, who also clash at Meadowbank Stadium this Saturday.
Lydney Town have made a reasonable start to their Hellenic Prem programme and they’ll be looking to build on that this Saturday as they travel to Surrey to confront one Frimley Green, who by contrast have failed to win any of their four Combined Counties top flight fixtures to date.
Four more Hellenic League competitors from the area, all Division One West sides, are involved in Vase action this Saturday, August 31 and they’ve been paired together too, as Thornbury Town entertain Cheltenham Saracens and Tytherington Rocks host Newent Town with local pride very much at stake with both those ties.
For Thornbury the Vase experience represents another milestone moment in their 121-year history following their maiden foray into the FA Cup arena three weeks back when they were felled 4-1 by Leighton Town in Bedfordshire.
Thorns boss Jason Rees warned, however “It’s going to be a stiff test; Cheltenham finished second in our league last year, albeit only a point above us, but we’re looking forward to it after getting our first win (3-2 over Clanfield 85) at the weekend.”
Tytherington, meanwhile, are making sterling attempts to galvanise support for their own enticing Vase opener with Newent at Hardwicke Fields.
Manager Tim Minihane explained: “We’re excited. We’ve got Stoke Lane Under-12s involved as mascots and our ladies section will be cheering us on as they have been so far. And we’ve invited along anyone associated with the club, past and present, to make it even more of an occasion.
“There’s even a groundhop blogger – TheMowdog - coming down to film the game with commentary which he’ll be putting on YouTube and Twitter.”
The draw for the second round qualifying of the FA Vase has already been made and can be found here: http://www.thefa.com/news/2019/jul/12/fa-vase-and-trophy-draw-details-120719
- Read part two of our FA Vase previews focusing on competing sides further south of the county.